I’m running a little behind, as you might have noticed, but I promise to catch up with my posts quickly. Today we did a nutrition education at a public school and we taught the children how to plant a garden. We transplanted the seedlings that they had already started, and we planted some new seeds including carrots, lettuce, and radishes.
The first thing you do when planting, is break up the soil. It has most likely been sitting all winter and has hardened, making it difficult for roots to grow. Tilling it or breaking it up by hand with a shovel or hoe will help aerate it and give the roots room to grow.
Before planting, you should always look at the back of the seed packet. This will give you all sorts of helpful information like how deep to plant the seed and how far apart to space them. It is very important to follow these directions so the plants get everything they need to grow successfully. Some seeds like carrots and lettuce need to be planted without much depth. These seeds need sunlight in order to germinate, and if you plant them too deeply, they will never sprout. Other plants, like onions or tomato seedlings should be planted deeper. If onions are planted too close to the surface, rain will wash the soil away from the bulb and it will not grow as well. Tomatoes should also be buried to the bottom of the leaves so it is not too tall and leggy.
For some plants like lettuce, you should stagger plantings. We planted a couple rows of lettuce now, and will plant another in 2 weeks and another in 4 weeks. This will allow us to have a continuous crop of lettuce as the older plants die off.
Before planting seedlings, it is very important to harden them. If they have been grown at a greenhouse, this step will already be completed. But if you grew your own seedlings, it is important to gradually expose the seedlings to the outdoors otherwise they will die of shock when you transplant them in your garden. Start with an hour in the shade, and gradually increase the length of time the seedlings are outside. It is also important to not let the seedlings outgrow their container. When the roots start to grow out of the pellet, they will sense the air and will stop growing – so it is important to transfer them before that happens (if it’s still too cold outside, transplant into a larger container).
Watering is especially important for transplants. Usually the soil in your garden will pull away all the moisture from the soil that you planted your seedlings in so it is very important to water adequately. When planting seeds, on the other hand, be careful not to over-water or wash your seeds away.
Don’t forget to label each row with what you planted. Also, if you have a tiller – plant rows far enough apart that the tiller can fit in between the rows once the plants have grown.